By Rex Hammock, Founder and CEO

If you ever speak to someone in product development at the software company Intuit, you’ll hear this sentence within the first few moments: “We fall in love with a customer’s problem, not with our solution.”

I heard that sentence firsthand earlier this week, when I attended Intuit’s annual conference in San Jose, California. Most of the 5,000 attendees were accountants, developers and users of QuickBooks Online, Intuit’s cloud-based financial management platform. Attendees traveled from around the globe to spend two days learning about what’s next from a company they know will help them solve their problems.

Intuit is one of those companies people study when seeking to understand how to build long-lasting customer relationships. At a basic level, the company provides a commodity product and service: bookkeeping and tax preparation. But Intuit is constantly re-making two things: (1) The quality of their products, and (2) the value proposition of their products. For example, they now describe their service in terms of the speed at which a small business is paid, and the time one can save doing the mundane. (In other words, not just bookkeeping and tax prep.) Product features are only described in the context of how they serve the problems or challenges faced by customers.

By constantly “falling in love with” a customer’s problem and not with the current way a product they’ve created solves it, Intuit is able to embrace what’s around the corner. By the time mobile access to products became something customers needed, Intuit was well into overhauling its products so that each is fully functional on a smartphone—not merely an app with limited features. And today, the firm is working on ways that voice-activation agents like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri will make finance-related tasks even easier and faster to accomplish.

Bottom-line for marketers: Intuit has thrived for three decades because it places a priority on embracing its customers’ problems rather than the company’s current solutions. Such an approach creates the kinds of relationships that compel customers to spend time and money to attend conferences on how to better use products and services that will solve the next problems they’ll face.

(Photo: Thinkstock)